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Hornchurch hairdresser giving free cuts to homeless is worldwide hit

PUBLISHED: 09:01 20 February 2015 | UPDATED: 09:19 20 February 2015

Stewart Roberts

Stewart Roberts

Archant

A recovering alcoholic hairdresser is offering free haircuts for homeless people to help transform their confidence as well as their look.

One customer posed for a before and after photoOne customer posed for a before and after photo

Stewart Roberts, of Hornchurch, became involved with the Salvation Army after “regaining control of his life” nine years ago and seeing first-hand the help it gives to homeless people.

Wanting to do his bit, he decided to offer his services by visiting centres across Essex and east London giving free haircuts.

“It’s the ideal place,” he told the Recorder. “All the homeless people come into the Sally Army. You haven’t got to go out looking for them.”

On Monday he was at Romford Salvation Army, in High Street.

“I was doing it by myself,” he said. “They were turning off the lights at 4.30pm and I was still cutting an old boy’s hair! I did more then than I do on a Saturday in the salon.”

As a lot of the people who come in are quite nervous, Stewart has had to work on his ice-breaking technique.

“It’s great,” said the 52-year-old. “All you need to do is pick someone with a bit of chat and once you start with one they all come over.

“I had one woman who kept saying ‘I am so grateful, thank you so much’. People think it’s a superficial thing but it can really make you feel good.

“One of the young guys said ‘can you tidy it up because I still like to keep some self respect’, which I thought was very poignant. Homeless people are not bad people trying to be good they are more often sick people trying to get well.”

He began his Haircuts 4 Homeless UK campaign in November and already has volunteers helping him out across east London and Essex. He has also been approached by people in Liverpool, Plymouth and even Australia who want to set up projects.

“I’m trying to build it up,” he explained. “We’re doing Brighton in the summer and a guy in Sydney wants to do it. I can see it being reeled out across the UK.”

Stewart was unaware the Pope had set up a similar venture in Rome, but quipped: “He nicks all me ideas, that one!”


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